E-Book Buyers to Get $166 Million Antitrust Payout

Electronic book buyers in the U.S. will begin receiving payments this week from $166 million in price-fixing settlements with five of the largest publishing companies, the New York attorney general’s office said.

Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Simon & Schuster Inc., Pearson Plc (PSON)’s Penguin Group and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH’s Macmillan unit reached the settlements in lawsuits brought by U.S. states and territories over e-book sales. States are still pursuing an antitrust case against Apple Inc. over e-books, which may go to trial this year.

“Illegal actions by these publishers forced consumers in New York and across the nation to pay artificially inflated prices for e-books,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. “Companies engaging in such anticompetitive conduct will be punished -- and starting today, those injured by their actions will start to receive full and fair compensation.”

Residents of all U.S. states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories are covered by the settlements, according to a website established by the claims administrator, Rust Consulting Inc. Customers are eligible for payments if they bought e-books from the publishers from April 1, 2010, to May 21, 2012, according to Schneiderman’s office.

Apple’s Role

In the U.S. Justice Department’s case against Apple, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan ruled in July after a non-jury trial that the Cupertino, California-based company had orchestrated a scheme with publishers to fix the prices of e-books. Cote also found Apple liable to the states. Apple has appealed her ruling.

In their case, state attorneys general and consumers are seeking as much as $840 million from Apple, the world’s most valuable technology company, according to a January court filing.

The case is Texas v. Hachette Book Group Inc., 1:12-cv-06625, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Christie Smythe in Brooklyn at csmythe1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net Peter Blumberg

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